One of the functions of the cerebellum in motor learning is to predict and account for systematic changes to the body or environment. This form of adaptive learning is mediated by plastic changes occurring within the cerebellar cortex. The strength of cerebellar-to-cerebral pathways for a given muscle may reflect aspects of cerebellum-dependent motor adaptation. These connections with motor cortex (M1) can be estimated as cerebellar inhibition (CBI): a conditioning pulse of transcranial magnetic stimulation delivered to the cerebellum before a test pulse over motor cortex. Previously, we have demonstrated that changes in CBI for a given muscle representation correlate with learning a motor adaptation task with the involved limb. However, the specificity of these effects is unknown. Here, we investigated whether CBI changes in humans are somatotopy specific and how they relate to motor adaptation. We found that learning a visuomotor rotation task with the right hand changed CBI, not only for the involved first dorsal interosseous of the right hand, but also for an uninvolved right leg muscle, the tibialis anterior, likely related to inter-effector transfer of learning. In two follow-up experiments, we investigated whether the preparation of a simple hand or leg movement would produce a somatotopy-specific modulation of CBI. We found that CBI changes only for the effector involved in the movement. These results indicate that learning-related changes in cerebellar– M1 connectivity reflect a somatotopy-specific interaction. Modulation of this pathway is also present in the context of interlimb transfer of learning.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
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